By Mitch Seaman
No one wins when employers break labor laws, but whenever California's star Labor Commissioner Julie Su announces the latest round of enforcement actions, it sure feels like a victory.
Case in point: This week, Commissioner Su hit three of the worst violators with over $1.8 million in backpay and penalty assessments for stealing employees' wages, defrauding the workers' comp system and willfully breaking a variety of other workforce protection laws.
By Steve Smith
Walmart shoppers probably didn't expect to be greeted Friday morning at 5 AM by a lively group of taxpayers protesting the "Walmart Loophole," which allows large companies like Walmart to avoid their responsibilities to pay their fair share for their workers' health care. But that's exactly what they encountered in West Sacramento.
About 30 demonstrators launched a statewide tour aimed at educating shoppers and the media about Walmart's practice of paying its workers so little that they are pushed into taxpayer-funded programs like Medi-Cal. The group also handed out information about AB 880 (Gomez), which would mandate that the state's largest and most profitable companies pay their fair share when their workers end up on taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal.
By Rachel Hooper
There is no question that the game of football is dangerous. NFL players get injured on the job - so many that an "injury report" section is ubiquitous in our sports page. In fact, a study run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that the risk of death associated with neurodegenerative disorders is about three times higher among NFL players than the rest of the population.
NFL athletes are not merely players, they are also employees.
Their employers are now trying to take away their collectively bargained right to Workers Compensation Benefits in California. It is not right, and it sets a dangerous precedent.
By Chuck Idelson
National Nurses United
They came, they danced, they marched, 2,000 people spirited and strong, Robin Hood's merry band of men and women, through the streets of Washington April 20.
Ending up astride a prominent government building, christened with a new name and a naming ceremony. No more U.S. Treasury, now, the banner declared, "The U.S. Treasury. A Citigroup Subsidiary. Jack Lew, Inc., CEO."
"We could end AIDS, reverse climate change, fund jobs and health care. Who do you work for Secretary Lew?" asked Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP (Global Action Project). "You work for the people, not Wall Street."
By Joshua Pechthalt
"When will the Teflon wear off?" is a question many have asked about Michelle Rhee, self-proclaimed public school advocate, but in practice, tip of the spear for the school privatization industry.
According to the L.A. Times last month, Rhee's claim that her children attend public school proved "misleading" at best. This is consistent with her challenged relationship with telling the truth in general. Overseeing a staff of 120 on a lavish budget funded by anti-public education billionaires and their foundations, Rhee talks like a progressive but walks like a disciple of Ayn Rand and free market competition.
By Robert Cruickshank
Last week Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to be dead for this legislative session. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg disagreed, declaring CEQA reform not dead yet and that it is in fact moving forward in this session:
A day after Gov. Jerry Brown said overhauling California's environmental laws was unlikely this year, the leader of the state Senate said Wednesday the effort is very much alive in the Legislature and he thinks it can be accomplished by year's end.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his bill to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is moving forward and he looks forward to talking to Brown now that the governor has returned from a trade mission in China.
"The Legislature is hard at work on CEQA reform," Steinberg told reporters. "As soon as the governor gets back, I'm going to sit down with him and go over specific provisions of the bill."
By Lisa Schiff
In the midst of a protracted assault on public education, teachers unions have in front of them a tremendous opportunity. The need for strong leadership asserting child-centric approaches to education has never been greater - teachers and their unions can seize this moment to break the mold of the traditional union and expand that organization's legitimate sphere of action to formally include the very structure and quality of students' learning experiences.
The historic purpose of a union to protect and advocate for its members is no less relevant today than it was in years past, but within the world of public education that mission alone is insufficiently ambitious, both for teachers and their students. The conditions of work are critical, but the nature of that work is equally so.
By Randy Shaw
In the past month, 1. Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly rejected a billionaire-backed school board candidate seeking to shift control of the district to anti-union forces; 2. Thirty-five Atlanta educators, including a close ally of prominent "reformer" Michelle Rhee, were indicted for altering students' test scores; 3. Rhee, head of "Students First," was herself caught lying about being a "public school parent" after it was reported that one of her daughters attends an exclusive private school in Tennessee; and 4. Chicago parents came out in force against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan for massive school closures.
By Steve Smith
Yesterday, a growing coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and tribes made clear that protecting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state's landmark environmental protection law, is essential to California's future.
Wealthy developers and corporate special interests have attacked CEQA as a hindrance to job creation, and are pushing to "reform" (i.e. gut) the law. But the facts just don't support their claims. At an event on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning, the Labor Management Cooperation Trust released a report that finds that since CEQA became law in 1970, California's manufacturing output, construction activity, per capita GDP and housing (relative to population) all grew as fast or faster than the other 49 states.
By Rev. Jim Conn
For all the talk of saving and rebuilding the middle class, no public official from the President on down has mentioned the U-word. The U-word? "Unions." From the 1930s through the '70s, unions turned working-class jobs into middle-class jobs. Hourly wage earners organized themselves into unions that could fight for livable wages, health and retirement benefits, safety rules, job protection and on-the-job respect. These became such national standards that even in the historically right-to-work states in the Deep South, many of these principles prevailed.
But for three decades those work standards have been under attack, wages have dropped - with benefits cut or stolen. Why is this happening? Because union membership declined as free trade agreements shipped those jobs off-shore, as business mergers stripped workers of health care, and as strategic corporate bankruptcies took away their pension funds. Workers have been asked to "give back" in order to keep their jobs from vanishing, only to have them disappear anyway.